Toyota Knew of Danger of Stuck Pedals, Lawyer Tells Jury

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) knew of the danger of stuck pedals and failed to install a brake-override system in the 2006 Camry of a woman who died in a crash, a lawyer told a jury in the company’s first fatal sudden-acceleration case to go to trial.

“Had Toyota installed a brake-override system, the vehicle would have come to a stop,” Garo Mardirossian, the lawyer for the widow and son of Noriko Uno, said yesterday in his opening statement in state court in Los Angeles.

Uno, 66, died when her Camry sped out of control and crashed into a tree after it was hit by a car that ran a stop sign in Upland, California, Mardirossian said.

Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, settled economic-loss claims by U.S. drivers after the recall of more than 10 million cars worldwide in 2009 and 2010. Lawyers for drivers valued the settlement at $1.63 billion. The recall followed complaints of sudden, unintended acceleration, including stuck accelerator pedals and floor mats that would shift out of position and get wedged under the gas pedal.

The Uno case is the first to go before a jury of about 85 personal-injury and wrongful-death lawsuits consolidated in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Brake Override

Mardirossian told jurors that Toyota had already installed a brake-override system in models sold in Europe. The system forces the car’s engine to idle when both the brake and gas pedal are stepped on simultaneously. There would have been no cost to install the feature in cars sold in the U.S. because it required only a modification to the car’s software, he said.

Uno’s family is seeking $20 million in damages.

“This is not a stuck-pedal case,” Toyota’s lawyer, Vince Galvin, said in his opening statement. “It’s an alleged stuck foot case.”

Galvin said the claim that Uno’s right foot was stuck between the gas and the brake pedals, causing her to accelerate as she tried to brake with her left foot, is not possible.

Uno’s 2006 Camry was not part of the recalls and was a safe vehicle, as Toyota had advertised, the lawyer said. The car went down the wrong side of the road for 30 seconds because Uno was stepping on the gas instead of the brake, he said.

“There’s no reason an alert driver could not control this vehicle,” Galvin said.

The case is part of In re Toyota Motor Cases, JCCP4621, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County (Los Angeles).

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in state court in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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